When I started to run six years ago, my main motivation was to lose weight and get fit.
And for the first year there were many highlights: when I ran my first 20 minutes in week five of C25K, when I ran my first 5k race and then a few months later my first 10k. Next was a half marathon, and then this weekend exactly five years ago I ran my first full marathon on a little island called Rottnest off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia.
All of these highlights were celebrated just by myself, or with my wife when she attended events. Certainly satisfying, but I remember thinking after completing that first marathon in around 4 hours 20 minutes, that it would have been nice to share my success with the other runners on the island that day, the only trouble was I didn’t really know anyone else.
The week after that first marathon I thought about my next goals. What scared me most of all was that I wouldn’t find any more reasons to run, and that I might regress to my previous sedentary state on the couch. So I decided to make a bold move, and contact a local running group about joining.
The first group run I attended was on a Sunday along the coast, and I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the group of about 15 runners and get left behind. Luckily one of the group took it upon themselves to stick with me and run at a pace I could manage. It was my first experience of how supportive these people would be. Afterwards there was coffee at a harbourside cafe and the opportunity to get to know everyone a little better.
Fast forward 5 years, and this weekend I am again going to catch the ferry across to Rottnest (or “Rotto” as the locals call it), this time for my fourth Rottnest marathon, and my seventh marathon in all.
There’s one big difference though between this time and my first marathon, and that is I am not there by myself this weekend. I am now a full time member of the Northern Suburbs Running Group, and run with them normally three to four times a week. I have made some incredible friendships, and running for me now is far from a solitary sport, it’s more like a team event. This weekend there’s probably around sixteen or so NSRG people running the marathon. As well, quite a few more from the group will make their way across to the island just to cheer on their mates.
As well as everyone from NSRG, there will be lots of other friends, mainly people I have run ultra races races with. One of those runners is running his 100th marathon on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to helping him celebrate that incredible feat with a few beers at the Rottnest Hotel straight after the race.
It’s six weeks since my 100 mile race, and the recovery hasn’t gone too well, with running being a real battle. So I am expecting to be way way off my best marathon times, and hope to get around in four and a half hours or so, which will be my personal worst result in a marathon. I also know if the wheels really fall off, that could easily become five and a half hours.
So given that likely scenario why run the race at all? It’s because I know to fully enjoy the camaraderie afterwards, I need to feel like I achieved the 26 miles. That makes doing it worthwhile.
So six years from when I started I am still maintaining my initial goals of fitness and weight loss…but I have been lucky enough to discover running has brought me an even more important benefit, a whole new lot of close friendships.
So if you are just starting out as a runner, I would highly recommend finding a group to run with as soon as you can, you may find like me it’s the one thing that keeps you running for life.
Video of Rotto Marathon course by Tomaz